Penguins top Sabres, 4-1, for second win in a row



Chances are the Penguins won't put in a rush order for a new banner to celebrate this accomplishment.

It's not likely to take away any luster from the Stanley Cup, the conference championships and division titles they've earned in the past 18 years, either.

Nonetheless, the Penguins' 4-1 victoryx Saturday night against Buffalo at Consol Energy Center did have some historical significance: It marked the first time they have won their first two home games in a season since 1995.

"No way," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "I didn't know that."

Not many people did. Or would have guessed, for that matter.

"With all the [good] teams we've had here, that's surprising," Fleury said. "Feels good, though."

It should, because the Penguins have earned their two victories with pretty solid, responsible efforts.

"There's no doubt we can improve and execute a little bit better," center Sidney Crosby said. "But I think our work ethic and our commitment to playing defense has been there, and that's allowed us to win some games."

And nearly made it possible for Fleury and his teammates to carve out another niche in the franchise record book.

For while they have not opened a season with consecutive shutouts since entering the NHL in 1967, that nearly changed Saturday.

Fleury, who recorded a 3-0 shutout against New Jersey in the opener last Thursday, looked as if he would hold the Sabres goal-less, as well, until Thomas Vanek knocked a puck out of the air and past him at 15:06 of the third period.

"It's a little bit [disappointing]," Fleury said. "I don't think I've had two straight shutouts, either, so it would have been nice to get those, but you can't be selfish."

The Sabres, who have played three times in four days, have put together a few striking numbers of their own in the first week of the season. None are positive.

Buffalo has started a season with three regulation losses in a row for the first time, has failed to convert any of 13 power plays and has manufactured a total of two -- count 'em, two -- goals in 180 minutes.

Pretty tough to win when you're averaging two-thirds of a goal per game. Almost as difficult as it is to lose when you're allowing an average of one-half per game.

But even though the Sabres didn't manufacture many shots, Fleury had to make a few quality stops, including a couple when the outcome wasn't certain.

At 4:10 of the first period, he denied Cory Hodgson on a redirection and then, with 70 seconds to go before the intermission, rejected a turning shot in front by Drew Stafford.

The Penguins played without defenseman Kris Letang and right winger James Neal, and the Sabres were missing a big name, too, as goalie Ryan Miller did not dress because of an undisclosed injury.

Whether Miller could have had an impact on the outcome is debatable, though, because Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth played well and made several excellent stops to prevent the Penguins, who spent much of the game in the Buffalo zone, from putting the game out of reach long before it ended.

"When we put our mind to playing in their end, you could see that we can keep them in there for long stretches, and obviously that's a good place to play," right winger Craig Adams said.

Still, Enroth could not stop them from building a two-goal advantage in the opening period.

Crosby gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead with his second goal of the season at 3:39 of the first, as he punched his own rebound past Enroth from the front lip of the crease.

At this point in his career, Crosby must enjoy seeing the Sabres even more than some of their most dedicated fans, considering he has at least one point in each of his past 15 games against them.

Chuck Kobasew deflected a Brandon Sutter shot by Enroth at 13:43 for his second goal in two games.

Enroth prevented Kobasew -- and everyone else -- from adding to the Penguins' lead until 10:09 of the third, when Chris Kunitz scored on a penalty shot to make it 3-0 and, after Vanek spoiled Fleury's shutout, Adams hit an empty net at 18:15 to give the Penguins their margin of victory.

And the 2-0 start on home ice that has eluded them for nearly two decades.

"We want to be really good here and make it tough on other teams," Crosby said. "Defensively, the way we're playing, I think we've frustrated a couple of teams here. That's what we wanted to do."

penguins

Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published October 6, 2013 1:45 AM


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